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LIFE

OF

CHARLES XII.

KING OF SWEDEN.

TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.

AND NOW PUBLISHED WITH ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.

London: Printed by W. M'Dowall, Pemberton Row, Gough-square, Ficet-street. FOR J.DAVIS, MILITARY CHRONICLE OFFICE, ESSEX-STREET, STRAND; AND TO BE HAD OF ALL THE BOOKSELLERS.

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DISCOURSE

ON

THE HISTORY OF CHARLES XII.

VERY few sovereign princes have deserved a particular history of their actions. In vain has malice or flattery waited almost on all princes, since there are but a very small number whose memories have been preserved; and that number would be much less, if only their good deeds were to be remembered.

The princes who have the best right to immortality are those who have been beneficent to mankind: thus, as long as France endures, shall that kindness which Lewis XII, had for his people be remembered ; and the great faults of Francis I. be excused, on account of the encouragement he gave to arts and sciences; so long shall men bless the memory of Henry IV. who subdued his country by his valour and his clemency; and so long shall they praise the generosity of Lewis XIV. for his protecting those arts to which Francis I. gave birth.

For a different reason are the names of bad princes remembered; it is as men preserve the remembrance of inundations, fires, and plagues.

Between tyrants and good kings, are conquerors, but nearest approaching to the first, and these have a shining reputation. Every one is desirous to know the minutest articles of their lives: and such is the weakness of man.. kind, that they behold any glorious mischief with admiration, and are better pleased to talk of the destroyer of an empire than of its founder.

As for other princes, who have neither shone in war nor peace, and who are not remarkable for great vices, or great virtues; as their lives afford no examples either to be imitated or avoided, they are not at all worth remembrance. Of all the emperors of Rome, Greece, Germany, and Muscovy; of all the sultans, caliphs, popes, kings, how few are there whose names are

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Discourse on History.

fit to be mentioned any where but in chronological tables, where they serve only to mark the eras of time!

There are the vulgar among princes as well as among other men; nevertheless the itch of scribling is come to that height, that a prince no sooner dies, but the public is over-run with volumes under the titles of his memoirs, his life, or the anecdotes or secret history of his court. Thus are books so greatly increased, that was a man to live a hundred years, and employ his time wholly in reading, he would not have enough to go through the history only that has been printed in Europe for the two last centuries.

This inclination of transmitting useless narrations to posterity, and of ing the attention of future ages on ordinary events, is owing to a weakness very common among those who have lived in courts, and had the misfortune of some share in public affairs. They imagine the court in which they lived the finest that ever was; the king they have served the greatest of monarcbs; and the affairs they have been employed in, the most important that ever have been transacted. They fancy, too, that posterity will view all these things with the same eyes.

If a prince undertakes a war, or has any intrigues in his court; if he buys the friendsbip of one of his neighbours, or sells his own to another; if at last he makes peace after some victories and some defeats, his subjects, full of these events, imagine themselves born in the most remarkable age that has been since the creation. And what happens next? This prince dies, quite different measures are taken, and then the intrigues of his court, his mistress. es, his ministers, his generals, his wars, and he himself are all forgotten.

From the time that Christian princes have endeavoured to deceive one another, and made war and alliances, a thousand treaties have been signed, as many battles fought, and their glorious and infamous actions are innu. merable. When this heap of events and particular circumstances descend to posterity, they are alınost all lost one in another; the only names that remain are of those who have produced some great revolutions, or of those who, being described by some excellent writer, are saved from the crowd of cominon princes, as the pictures eren of obscure persons are valuable when painted by a masterly hand.

This particular history of Charles XII. king of Sweden, should not have been added to that multitude of books with which the public is already over stocked, if that prince and bis rival Peter Alexiovitz, the much greater man

Discourse on History.

of the two, had not been, by the consent of all the world, the most remarkable persons who have appeared for these two thousand years; but this book is not written only for the little satisfaction of telling strange stories, but that it may be useful to some princes if it should happen to fall accidentally into their hands. Certainly no one can read the history of Charles XII. without being cured of the folly of making conquests; for where is there that prince who can say, I have more courage and more virtue, a greater soul or more strength of body, more skill in war, or better troops, than Charles the Twelfth? If with all these advantages, and after so many victories, this king was une happy, what are other princes, with the same ambition but less talents to expect?

This history is composed from the relations of some persons of distinction, who lived several years in the countries, and near the persons of Charles XII. and Peter the Great, emperor of Muscovy; and who, being retired into a free country, long after the death of those princes, can have no interest in disguising the truth.

There is not one single fact advanced here upon which occular and incontestable witnesses have not been consulted; for which reason this history will be found very different from those gazettes which have hitherto appeared under the name of the Life of Charles XII. Several skirmishes between the Swedish and Muscovite officers are omitted, because the design here is not to write the history of those officers, but only of the king of Sweden; and even among the events of his life, the most material only are made choice of; being persuaded that the history of a prince is not to contain every thing that he has done, but is to take notice of all those fit to be transmitted to posterity.

It is proper to observe, that many things which were true at the time of writing this history, in the year 1728, are not so at present. For example, the trade of Sweden is not so much neglected; the Polish infantry are better disciplined, and have regimental clothes, which they had not then: the readers of history should always observe the time when their author wrote. A man who only reads the cardinal de Retz, would take the French for madmen, who breathe nothing but civil-war, faction, and folly. Those who only read the history of the best part of Lewis the Fourteenth's reign, would be apt to say, that the French were only born to obey, to conquer, and to cultivate arts and sciences. Another, who shalt see the memoirs of the first years of Lewis the Fifteenth, will be able to discover nothing in the nation but luxury avarice, and indifference to all things else. The present Spaniards are not

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